As part of a larger legal campaign against the tobacco industry, Ventura County supervisors agreed this week to join other counties in a lawsuit against the R.J. Reynolds firm over its Joe Camel advertisements.
The supervisors voted Tuesday to join a lawsuit brought by San Francisco resident Janet C. Mangini against the cigarette maker, alleging that the Joe Camel cartoon character featured in its ads is used to encourage minors to illegally purchase cigarettes.
This is not the first time the county has entered a lawsuit against a cigarette manufacturer. It joined more than a dozen other California counties and cities last year in suing six tobacco companies, alleging that they violated state and federal laws by falsely denying the addictive nature of cigarettes and their harmful health effects.
The government case seeks to recover millions of dollars that the counties and cities spend annually in the treatment of smoking-related illnesses.
Assistant County Counsel Noel Klebaum said the county decided to join the Mangini lawsuit because it includes several of the same complaints brought in the larger government case. He said the advantage is that the Mangini lawsuit is expected to be heard in December, while the government case could be tied up for years.
A San Francisco law firm is serving as special counsel for Ventura County and other municipalities in both cases on a contingency basis, Klebaum said.
“This is not costing taxpayers money,” he said.